Welcome to June’s Setting Workshop! From a Rafflecopter lottery drawing, we selected over thirty writers to participate. Each mentor has graciously critiqued a 500 word sample chosen by the writers from a place he or she felt needed help with setting. We hope that not only you’ll learn a little bit about setting that you can apply to your own writing, but that you’ll also be able to get to know some of our wonderful Pitch Wars mentors and their editing styles. We appreciate our mentors for giving up their time to do the critiques. If you have something encouraging to add, feel free to comment below. Please keep all comments tasteful. We will delete any inappropriate or hurtful ones.
And now we have …
Pitch Wars Mentor Rachel Lynn Solomon
The 500 Word Critique . . .
Adult Women’s Historical Fiction
Saturday, July 11, 1896. I have arrived as an artist: Cottage 10B, Shinnecock Hills School of Art.
Mrs. Patterson met me at the Easthampton station in her carriage. She was old, her hair white, her face lined and tanned. She wore a black straw hat bedecked with silk lilies of the valley (Return of Happiness!). She told me I was “clever” to bring a wheelchair to transport art supplies around, and that artists were always surprising her with their creative ideas. I thought of telling her about my asthma, as she was going to take care of me. But I decided no. This isn’t related to setting, but why does your MC decide not to tell her? There’s a bit more to explore here, I think!
She had a face I might like to draw—dotted with big freckles and a quick smile—although I don’t have much practice drawing people. Her breath smelled of anise. Love this description of her! It shows us right away that your MC is an artist and gives us an interesting detail: that she doesn’t really draw people.
As we rode in her carriage, I thanked her for taking me into her home. This is a great chance to add some description of the carriage and where they’re riding. Is the ride bumpy? What does your MC see out the window? Are there smells from the outside that drift into the carriage? Is the carriage comfortable? What does it look like? And where are they going? You mention they met at the Easthampton station, but now that they’re in the carriage, where are they headed?
“Oh, heavens, there’s no room, with my niece’s paintings all over the place and my mother’s old furniture,” she said. “Although I suppose we could move you into the attic… but no, that’s too hot, you’ll be far better off in the cottage we found you… 10B.” This is a great way to show description of the cottage (even though we’re not there yet!) in dialogue. Nice job!
It was settled. She reached across to pat my hand.
“Don’t worry, dear. I’m near the school, and I see to all the girls. It’s perfectly decent.”
Mrs. Patterson said Mr. Hamilton went to Boston most weekends. She left me with a student who worked in the office, after instructing me to leave a painting in the studio building for the Monday morning critique session that everyone would attend. I’m not sure if they’ve arrived at the cottage yet. Some of this feels a bit tell-y, and I’d love to linger in these scenes a little longer.
The student showed me the art village on the way to my cottage: tightly packed cottages, well separated by fences and thickets. A studio building with a high roof in the center that reminded me of a small church. Bathing houses for men and women, a boarding house where I could take my meals, and an outdoor “common area,” three rustic benches under a scrubby tree. No grass, only sand. And permeating everything, a brackish smell from the inlet. Great descriptions!
Vivian would have called it “charming.” I thought it resembled a revival camp. I like this contrast between your MC and Vivian (I assume Vivian is a friend?), but I’m not sure what a revival camp is. Is this something your readers will be familiar with? If not, perhaps explain or consider a different comparison?
The student left me in 10B, and said, “The fastest way to the dunes is to row out or get a ride on a sailboat.” Could you give the student a little more description? Right now we don’t know anything about him/her—not even his/her gender!
I started to ask where the boats were kept, but he interrupted, “Excuse me, I must get back to the office.”
My things had been brought into the cottage, and at first I thought I would not be able to turn around in here. But I tucked it all away in the small cupboard and on the hooks nailed into the white plaster walls. I unpacked everything, made my little iron bed, and put some of my art supplies on the wheelchair, as Mrs. Patterson had suggested. Fantastic! These are great descriptions. I feel like I have a solid visual of the cottage.
I understood why Mr. Hamilton wrote, in his letter to Vivian, that we would spend all our time painting outside. Writing this at my wicker desk, I feel as if I am outdoors already.
Overall, you have some really nice descriptions of the cottage, but I’d love more details about the other settings. Right now we jump from carriage to a tour from the student to the cottage in just 500 words. Feel free to linger longer in your scenes so that your readers can get their bearings! Good luck!
Thank you, Rachel, for your critique. Check back every weekday for the rest of our June Setting Workshop. And get ready! The Pitch Wars Mentor Wishlist Blog Hop starts July 20 with the Pitch Wars submission window opening on August 3.